Part #2: The Muffler Shop at the End of Time
Continuing west on Whittier, and also on the right side of the street but immeasurably easier to spot because of the yellow and blue stripes which the proprietor has not only painted over every square inch of his building but also on the sidewalk and up the telephone pole on the street corner as well, you’ll find Peoples’ History Tour Site #2, El Pedorrero (the Farter) Muffler Shop, 4101 Whittier Boulevard. El Pedorrero Muffler Repair, with its “museum” open to the public Monday through Friday from 1 – 5 PM, is small business establishment as total folk art installation.
East L. A. muffler and tire shops regularly employ flashy and eye-catching motifs, often decorated with statuary welded out of tailpipes or vehicles improbably teetering atop roofs or walls, but El Pedorrero outdoes them all. Since July 23, 1978, Bill London (he tells me) has astonished and hypnotized customers while repairing their mufflers.
Every surface including all walls, the concrete yard leading out onto the sidewalk, the sidewalk itself, the fence and equipment or other stationary objects have been painted alternating blue, yellow and white stripes. These colors, Bill assured me, have metaphysical meanings and the capacity to affect one’s health. Blue and yellow signify life and death, he said, white meanshappiness and black means sadness. “For example, if your mother dies, you may choose not to go to the black but to go to the darkness, instead,” Bill explained to me in Spanish while attending to a customer, but I was too dazzled by the color patterns to follow this logic. Maybe I should have asked him what the psychedelic paint job had to do with muffler repair, but by then we were in his office, and Bill handed me a bullet, which, I saw, had a ring attached to it. I was not clear on what I was supposed to do with it and stared too long at it. “It’s a keychain,” the customer, apparently an old regular of Bill’s, said. If the outside of the building is festooned with strange implements that include a large wooden propeller inset with a clock as the centerpiece and garnished with fifty caliber machinegun cartridges, along with other equally eccentric apparatuses, their intricate immobility manufactures an atmosphere of whimsical obsolescence, while inside the building in the office, garage bay and “museum” off to the side, on interior walls, hanging from the ceiling and piled to overflowing on all sides are what Bill calls “old-fashioned anorancias,” memorabilia consisting of odd items of all sizes, invariably with the patina of age, antiques and relics, toys of various kinds but especially weaponry, statues all types surrounded by similar figures and toys, other souvenirs, knick knacks and dolls so as to give the impression that the statuary is part of an endless dusty spectrum of the human image contorted into a weird American empire of dusty fantasy and industrial decline, mixed as they all are with all sorts of stopped clocks, broken or silent musical instruments, large and small swords, bayonets, replicas of guns, toy guns, maps and kitsch paintings, girly posters whose colors have completely faded, light fixtures, old telephones, fire alarm boxes along one wall, animal statues, stuffed animals, toy car replicas, scales, tools, a variety of pitch forks overhead, everything dusty and collectively adding up to what you might expect to find in the ultimate muffler shop at the end of time.